KAILUA-KONA — A new leader is at the helm of PATH — Peoples Advocacy for Trails Hawaii — as the nonprofit moves forward in its 33rd year of advocating for pedestrian and bicycle safety on Hawaii Island.
Valerie Overlan, a competitive runner turned walker, took over the nonprofit’s executive director position effective Sept. 3. She‘s “super excited” to be in the position and will be “sticking to the mission of PATH,” which is to safely connect people and places in Hawaii Island with pathways and bikeways.
“People can expect that PATH is just going to continue moving forward and growing. And, hopefully, with everybody’s help and the community’s involvement, we will continue to do the great work that PATH has been doing for all these years,” Overlan said Tuesday.
Overlan, who was selected by PATH’s board of directors following a five-month search, is just the fourth person to head the organization since its inception in 1986. Its first executive director was Annie Peterson, followed by Laura Dierenfield and Tina Clothier, who held the position from 2013.
“It feels great to know that we have someone of such great talent to take us to the next level. Val is very skilled in relationship building and income development. Those are all things that are important to sustaining PATH and being able to sustain our work going forward,” said Clothier. “It’s her hope, and our hope, that she will help us to build capacity for PATH so that we can continue our great work. We’re very, very excited.”
A Kentucky native, Overlan moved to Hawaii with her husband from Washington state to assume the PATH leadership role. She is also now closer to her two sons who have lived in the islands, including the Big Island, for the past six years.
Prior to taking the executive director position, Overlan was associate director of corporate relations at the University of Washington College of Engineering, where she raised over $10 million to connect research collaborators between engineering faculty/students with industry partners, Cindy Armer, chairperson of the PATH board of directors, said Tuesday in a media release.
Armer also touted Overlan’s leadership, passion for the outdoors and eagerness to build new relationships.
“I am confident she will fit seamlessly into our culture of grassroots organizing for people-focused streets and lead the organization to a new level of effectiveness,” Armer said of the new executive director.
She later commented during a phone interview, “I can’t ever say we can replace Tina but we found somebody who’s going to do a great job also.”
Clothier, who was among the volunteers when PATH started, isn’t going far. She’s been helping Overlan hit the ground running — especially with the upcoming 33rd annual PATH 5k/10k and Keiki Dash on Oct. 5, a kickoff to the Ironman World Championship Oct. 12 — and will remain with the organization, transitioning to a new title, strategic projects director.
“It’s a nice transition time. We didn’t make it specific as to how long the transition is going to be but we have Tina certainly working with her this month because there’s so many things,” said Armer. “Under Tina, we grew so much. There are so many more responsibilities than we had before Tina came on.”
In the new position, Clothier will work on projects close to her heart such as the Safe Routes to School, the Blue Zone Project Built Environment Policy work, the Bikeshare expansion project and the development of a Hawaii County Vision Zero Action Plan.